Summary and Analysis of The Seven Ages of Man by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest propounders of English Literature. unlike his affluent predecessors, hailing from the University of Oxford and Cambridge, he was ” schooled in nature’s school”. He was an English poet, a playwright and an actor. Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon and is often regarded as the ‘Bard of Avon.’ He is considered as the national poet in England. His works range over a vast spectrum of various genres, of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, some long narrative poems and other verses. There exists considerable controversy regarding his physical attributes, sexuality, religious beliefs etc. Some of his famous tragedies include Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear. Shakespeare died on 23rd of April, 1616 at the age of 52, survived by his wife and two daughters.

The Seven Ages of Man is an excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s comedies, As You Like It. The poem begins with a phrase, ‘All the world’s a stage’ which is very prolific and relevant.
In this poem, Shakespeare compares life to a stage where man has been assigned a specific role for a specific duration of time and his divided life into seven stages each having its own varied qualities and features.

Summary and Analysis of The Seven Ages of Man:

Summary of The Seven Ages of Man-


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Shakespeare considers the world a stage and men and women actors on the stage of life. They play seven roles according to their age. The first stage, as described by the poet, is the infant who is being carried by a nurse. The infant cries and vomits all the time. Later, that infant grows into a schoolboy, not willing to attend the school which is the second stage of a man’s life. The third stage is that of a lover who is lost in his thoughts of love. The lover writes poetry in praise of his beloved’s beauty. In the fourth stage, as he grows older, he joins the army and becomes a soldier. He is physically fit and is aggressive, short-tempered and ambitious in nature. His shining face has now acquired specks of beard as signs of his maturity.  His blood now boils with passion and he is engaged in chasing the fleeting reputations of honour and glory.

The fifth stage shows that with maturity and wisdom, the family man becomes a judge. With age he has accustomed to the corrupt ways of the society, indulging in bribery to sate his needs. His look is authoritative and he advises people. The sixth stage is about the man who has grown old and is seen in a pantaloon and spectacles. His authoritative voice has grown weak and his voice trembles as he talks. He returns to the initial stage of his infancy, loosing all the majestic features of his glory years The last stage is about the senile man who loses his teeth, his vision and his hearing. After this, the man part in the play ends and he exits from the stages of his life forever.


The Seven Ages of Man Analysis

Shakespeare wants to render a message through his poem, The Seven Ages of Man that men and women are ‘merely players’ in the drama that life is. They are termed as ‘merely players’ because no one lives forever but plays his or her part and departs. At birth, they enter a stage, throughout their life they cater to the roles specified and during death, they take their leave. The poem revolves around the idea that each man has his own purpose in life and that all other digressions that we suffer through are mere distractions. The man passes through these seven phases of life in accordance with their age.

Structure:
The poem is composed in free verse. The style is narrative. The poem describes seven different stages of life in a brief manner but has a powerful impact throughout.

Metaphor in The Seven Ages of Man:
A metaphor is that figure of speech where comparison of two different things is implied but not clearly stated. Examples of metaphor in the poem are as follows,-
*All the world’s a stage
*And all men and women are merely players
*seeking the bubble reputation (reputation has been termed as short-lived like a bubble)

Simile in The Seven Ages of Man:

A simile is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar objects are compared and the comparison is made clear by the use of terms like ‘like’, ‘such as’ and so on. Examples of simile in the poem are,

*Sighing like furnace

*creeping like a snail

*bearded like the pard

 

Alliteration in The Seven Ages of Man:

Alliteration is the close repetition of the consonant sounds at the beginning of words to facilitate narration. Example of alliteration in the poem is,
*shrunk shank
*plays his part

Here is a detailed video of The Seven Ages of Man summary, analysis and critical appreciation.

Suggested Reading: Summary of The Seven Ages of Man in Hindi

Trisha

I have done my M.A in English andI love reading good books and sharing knowledge with others. Thanks for appreciating.

62 Comments
  1. Reply
    tanya nema October 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    i want to know description of line-“seeking the bubble reputation”

    • Reply
      Kalyani March 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Bubble reputation actually means
      The stage of a soldier is striving hard for seeking the bubble reputation,which is momentary like the bubble.they go till the maximum extent for the momentary hapiness and are ready to face any adventure for seeking their reputation

    • Reply
      harshita January 23, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      aiming to win fame and glory, even if they are short lived

    • Reply
      muhammad safri December 21, 2015 at 1:23 am

      bubble stands something that would not last

    • Reply
      Harsh Vanjani December 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      It takes man a lot of time to develop a lot of reputation.The bubble grows but just a single touch also makes it disappear.Man has took a lot of time to build his reputation and he can even stand in the front of cannon;s mouth but he will never let down his reputation!

    • Reply
      rabika December 7, 2014 at 4:59 am

      “bubble reputation” means short and temporary words of praise. Shakespeare is trying to say that a soldier, full of strange ambitions is willing to do anything on the battlefield. Every soldier will try his best to attain that mini respect. There is a competition between all the soldiers to get it.

    • Reply
      Prachi Kumar October 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      A bubble rises very fast and pops just as quickly.

      During this stage of life, men set their sights on very high places (we might compare the modern concept of ‘fame’), and want to rapidly achieve success. The danger with this is that a slight mistake can tarnish your reputation forever.

      Why do you think no-one bothers about the sins of unimportant people, while everybody remembers the flaws of public figures?

  2. Reply
    anima October 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

    i have to make a poster on the first age ant need a description of that one plzzzzz……. help me

    • Reply
      rockstar November 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Banao aur kya

      • Reply
        Elena March 15, 2017 at 6:26 pm

        This was really very helpful nd it helped me a lot for my exams

  3. Reply
    Pratik Vora December 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    The first stage is of the infant as you know….in this stage the infant is dependent upon others to look after it…it pukes and cries in the nurse’s arms and does whatever he wants to do…

  4. Reply
    bhavya jain December 9, 2014 at 11:49 am

    we hd to a drama. this helped us….this is awesome

  5. Reply
    Harshita Batra January 5, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    The first stage of man is childhood and in this poem the childhood of the baby of a rich family is taken into consideration.AS the infant of a rich family is taken care by the nurse and so thus is usually found crying and vomiting in the nurses arms.

  6. Reply
    vandana shukla January 12, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    At the first age the poet describes that the actorentered into the stage as it have it’s birth to play seven ages. The first he beins and start crying and vomiting in the nurse’s arm .

  7. Reply
    toral momaya February 25, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    its really helpful i read the summaries of all the lessons n helps getting marks

    • Reply
      yeeen June 10, 2015 at 2:03 am

      i want to know the meaning of sighing like furnace,within woeful ballad

      • Reply
        harshita January 23, 2016 at 12:54 pm

        sighing like furnace means breathing hard with intence passion and the woeful of ballad it means a romantic poem composed i praise of his lover’s beauty

  8. Reply
    Shaketh June 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    What illustration would best suit the 5th stage? I need reference, please?

    • Reply
      monaliza June 30, 2015 at 11:48 am

      in the 5th state the person become mature and no more games. and he become wise and judge fairly just like our parents

      • Reply
        ALI January 22, 2017 at 4:41 pm

        no he actually becomes a judge and has a round belly because of all the money he got from bribes, its TRUE!

  9. Reply
    monaliza June 30, 2015 at 11:44 am

    i really like the poem and the explanation was really helpfull

  10. Reply
    zainab September 6, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    for me it was reall help full to uderstand this poem, it is really A NICE poem

  11. Reply
    eashaan October 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    good and helpful website.helps to prepare in examinations…..awesome

  12. Reply
    ikjot singh October 21, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    meaning of the fifth and fourth stanza

  13. Reply
    Bhani October 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I wanna describe the age of schoolboy in detail …any description needed

  14. Reply
    HARMAN SARABHA October 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    kush ni bekar aa jama bi

  15. Reply
    bob October 27, 2015 at 1:38 am

    thes 1 rally haolped mi wif mi erish and it helpd mi alot 😀

  16. Reply
    Akhil November 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Can I know the meanin God ‘sighing like furnace’?

  17. Reply
    Anand Venkat November 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    instead of 2nd stage there is fourth stage

  18. Reply
    NIDHI November 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    THERE IS A SMALL CORRECTION IN THE SUMMARY IT IS WRITTEN THAT THE INFANT WHEN GROWS INTO A SCHOOLBOY IT IS THE FOURTH STAGE IT IS ACTUALLY THE SECOND STAGE

  19. Reply
    Sumit kumar. November 30, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I want the explanation of line his youthful hose, well saved,a word too wide. please help me anyone who know this line meaning.

  20. Reply
    Ayush Badola December 5, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I am very thankful to the people who wrote the summary of the poem which is very exact. I liked the format of the site

  21. Reply
    anonymous December 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    this is owsum

  22. Reply
    rock ki December 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    this is a poem in which all life of a person is described in a short form

  23. Reply
    Chaidan satish December 25, 2015 at 11:01 am

    In the sixth line. Fourth should be changed to second becuz second stage is mentioned there

  24. Reply
    akasha January 11, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Nice one

  25. Reply
    janhavi borse February 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    It is really helpfull. I am thankful to all those who has contributed in making if this summary

  26. Reply
    Seema March 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Superb description it helped me a lot thanks

  27. Reply
    Fathima Fara T.M. April 20, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Why in the third line, exit comes before the entrance?

    “They have their exits and their entrances.”
    Any hidden meaning?

    • Reply
      Bhavita October 24, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Birth and death are the exits and entrances

    • Reply
      Bhavita October 24, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      It means that people are born and dead which is the entrance and exit of life

  28. Reply
    daril June 30, 2016 at 11:29 am

    thankz formthe good summary i like it 🙂 thank you

  29. Reply
    daril June 30, 2016 at 11:29 am

    thankz for the good summary i like it 🙂 thank you

  30. Reply
    takome June 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    why did the persona use the word reputation that compared to bubble ?whwt is the relation?

  31. Reply
    takome June 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    i mean what is the relation?

  32. Reply
    SYRIL JAGAN August 7, 2016 at 5:33 am

    In a hurry, you may lose your reputation by doing any wrongful act. As the bubble bursts after it grows to its maximum, the same way a person may harm his reputation.

  33. Reply
    Aildreen Verde August 18, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    help me pls! at the second line (and all men and women are merely players) what is the meaning of it?

  34. Reply
    Vatsal Patel October 9, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Helps a lot in understanding the inner meaning of the poem

  35. Reply
    Chantal October 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    All men and women are merely players= Every person enters into the “stage” of life through birth. Therefore, people are compared to actors and actresses since the world is compared to a theatre stage. Every person performs their individual parts = live their own lives, they enter =are born and they exit= they die.

  36. Reply
    Rituraj October 28, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I have to create a presentation on this help me…

  37. Reply
    Manhar October 29, 2016 at 9:01 am

    why does the men and women referred to as players? – i need a good explanation for that. Thank You

  38. Reply
    Manhar October 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

    why does the men and women referred to as players? – need a good explanation for that. Thank You

  39. Reply
    Danish sharma November 20, 2016 at 3:57 am

    easy to understand

  40. Reply
    Vishakha November 21, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you

  41. Reply
    pratham November 21, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Nice,useful,wonderful,no words to describe it

  42. Reply
    ANKIT January 8, 2017 at 6:03 am

    I am very lucky that i found this website when i was searching for the summary of this poem, it helped me a lot
    Thanks

  43. Reply
    nandana January 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Tks a lot .This helped me for my project

  44. Reply
    Subash yadav March 20, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Why is the school boy described as ‘whining’ ?

  45. Reply
    Bob April 12, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Where the rest of it

  46. Reply
    Bob April 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Where’s the rest of our lives

  47. Reply
    pema tenzin April 19, 2017 at 9:38 am

    this is a very helpful and a very nice summary and analysis but i be very grateful and thankful if u could analyze it in different perspectives…such as from political, religious, or psychoanalytical perspectives..thank you

  48. Reply
    izaak gabuna santos June 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Please Help me what is the Example of Metaphor. i need now plssss

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